We need new laws, the Chief Justice has said. The observation is not incorrect, but what laws in particular need changing, the CJ failed to mention. Specifics would have been welcome, but the only indication of direction was his statement about “changing social behaviors” caused by an increased usage of the internet. The fact that the CJ is responsive to, and aware of the modern legal requirements which make present laws look outdated, is welcome introspection.

While there are new realms to form legal guidelines for, not all laws that exist are perfect, but nor are they implemented in letter or spirit. Irregularities within present laws also need to be addressed when attempting to fix the legal system. The way the courts function is an added problem. The conduct of trials in general, the number of cases gathering dust in dank and moth-riddled storerooms and even seemingly basic issues such as the number of judges per bench, are all challenges that the judiciary faces, which hamper its ability to dispense justice.

An added reason for concern is the fact that even if the laws themselves are sound, the way they are interpreted is not, and this takes away from the overall efficiency of the system. Then there are laws that are there just to make things look more positive. A variety of human rights laws in this country for example, exist only on paper, but fail to provide either protection or prevention against heinous crimes, which define Pakistan’s reputation in the international community. The laws regarding universal education, hate speech and a plethora of bills passed to protect women all supposedly exist, but even the most imaginative spin doctor will find it difficult to claim that they have done what they were supposed to.

Iftikhar Chaudhary is realizing the need for new laws to be introduced to focus the scope of the legal system, however he must also recognize that changing laws on their own will not solve the problem he is hoping to address, and the courts would do better by first ensuring that the mechanisms and laws in place are used to fulfill their role of the dispensers of justice in a more effective manner. Meanwhile, the government must ensure that laws which are debated and constructed, are then also respected. These legal guidelines are written to ensure order in the society. They are to be obeyed as a rule, not a convenience. Unless all laws are equally respected and strictly followed, we will make no headaway towards our goal of being a just society.